Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Year 1: Week 28

This week, we...
  • Read Hannibal's Vow and The Adventures of Hannibal in  On the Shores of the Great Sea 
  • Located Spain, France, Pyrenees, Alps, Apennines, Rhone, Italy, Africa, Gibraltar, and other locations related to Hannibal in our National Geographic Kids World Atlas, and (in The World by the Fireside) we read about South American ants and anteaters
  • Drew a horse (well, actually a pegacorn) using 1-2-3 Draw Pets and Farm Animals
  • Read winter poems in Nature in Verse
  • Read 3 pages of "A Comedy of Errors" in Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare
  • Read "The Wonderful Sheep" in The Blue Fairy Book. This story does not have a happy ending. Spoiler alert: The sheep dies. And it's all the main character's fault. The story ends with this: So you see that even a princess is not always happy— especially if she forgets to keep her word; and the greatest misfortunes often happen to people just as they think they have obtained their heart's desires!
  • Read fable "The Dog and the Wolf." (We have this leatherbound Aesop's Fables from Easton Press.) In this fable, the wolf decides he would rather have his freedom than a chain around his neck and a full belly. Reading this fable, I can't help but think how wonderful it is to be free of a car payment. I drive a car that is comfortable and runs well, but it isn't new and it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles and cup holders new cars have. But I'm so happy with it. While "The Wonderful Sheep" is not a must-read, "The Dog and the Wolf" most definitely is.
  • Continued our bedtime book: The Silver Chair
  • Worked on numbers in Spanish (hundreds, thousands, millions)
  • Bought a new French app: Fun French by StudyCat. Gemma enjoyed the two free lessons (colors and animals) so much that I went ahead and paid to unlock 10 additional lessons. A lot of language learning apps for children just teach vocabulary (for example: dog = chien), but with StudyCat's Fun French, the user gets to hear French spoken in complete sentences. C'est tres cool.
  • Completed 2 chapters of Life of Fred: Mineshaft (in addition to several multiplication riddles)
  • Started our Mommy & Gemma Nature Journal 📓 
  • Listened to Mozart's Symphony 40
  • Re-viewed Monet's water lilies, and read a little bit about them in What Makes a Monet a Monet?
  • Read Mark 11:1-11
  • Went to see a musical production of The Velveteen Rabbit. (I love Gemma's outfit in this photo. A T-Rex t-shirt with a floral skort. How's that for balance?)
  • Gemma made this crown. That's handicraftish, right?
  • Cursive copywork and P.E. - check! Gemma earned another life skills stripe by writing 5 sentences about cooperation. She dictated what she wanted to say, I wrote them in cursive, and then she copied the sentences I had written.
  • We have 12 weeks left to finish the final 8 "weeks" of 1st grade. I'm happy that we've got that kind of wiggle room, especially since I know we'll be taking a few days off next month during Spring Break.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Year 1: Week 27

This week, we...
  • Read poetry from Nature in Verse
  • Drew a horse. Since Gemma has drawn all of the other figures in 1-2-3 Draw Princesses, I bought two new drawing books for her. The first is Draw 1-2-3 Pets and Farm Animals. The reason I chose this book is because 1)I wanted some resources that will help her (and me) with nature journaling, and 2)I looked through Draw 1-2-3 People (which is great, and I plan to use it later) and it covers proportion, which is a little bit more of an advanced concept, so I thought it would be better later, maybe 2nd grade. The second is How to Draw Flowers which really simplifies how to draw at least a couple of dozen flowers. It has how to draw roses, asters, tulips, orchids - you name it. The thing that sold me on this book is that it helps a person who sees a flower and is overwhelmed with where to start see the parts of a flower.
  • Read about Bartimaeus (Mark 10)
  • Started A Comedy of Errors in Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare
  • Read On the Shores of the Great Sea ("A Great Conflict" and "The Roman Fleet"). Gemma's narration about "A Great Conflict" was very short and centered on how elephants are afraid of fire, but her narration about "The Roman Fleet" was one of the best narrations she's given. After reading On the Shores of the Great Sea, I was certain I wanted to use it as our history spine, but I admit, I did doubt my choice our first term. Gemma did not yet understand that, yes, she did need to narrate every reading. Her narrations were often repetitions of the last sentence, followed by me leaning forward and, in a very un-Charlotte Mason way, saying, "You've got to be kidding me. That's seriously all you remember?" (I've gotten a little bit better, by the way.) Her narration of "The Roman Fleet" was awesome. Very complete, and she was even enthusiastic. It was a fascinating chapter. Did you know that Roman ships were equipped with boarding bridges? A Roman ship would get close to an enemy ship and drop its bridge, which had a curved spike like a beak, onto the enemy's ship. Then the Roman crew would run across the bridge onto the enemy's ship and engage in hand to hand combat. 
  • Added Gutenberg's Printing Press to Gemma's timeline book
  • Went to CC

  • Read "The Black Bull of Norroway" from The Blue Fairy Book. Um, what was I thinking? I was thinking: Hey, we haven't read this story yet; why not? There's a reason this fairytale isn't scheduled by Ambleside Online. It's written in a Scottish dialect, so it has words like bannocks and collops and bluidy sarks. Her mither did sae; and the dochter gaed awa’ to an auld witch washerwife and telled her purpose. Gemma and I enjoyed the fairytale, though my accent was waaay off, and I had to stop and look up words every now and again. (There are audio versions of this story read by people who don't stumble over every other word, and who actually know the meaning of the words they're reading.)
  • Went to to jiujitsu
  • Read recitation passages
  • Read "The Ass and the Lion Hunting"
  • Went to tap and ballet

  • Practiced piano
  • Started building a paper basilica (um, because I have three or four Leonardo da Vinci kits that I bought on clearance for $2.99 more than a decade ago, and Gemma found them...and because she needed a handicraft this week)
  • Listened to Mozart's Symphony 40, as well as Papageno's song from The Magic Flute; went to the L.A. Opera's Saturday Morning at the Opera; practiced piano, including "The Quiet Song"; sang along to French and Spanish songs, and hymn ("Soul Adorn Thyself With Gladness")
  • Nature Study: Does it count that I thought about Nature Study? A lot? Or that on a walk, Gemma said a tree was beautiful and asked what it was. (It was an Illawarra flame tree.) I've got to come up with a way to "keep" that works for me. I know it's not what's popular in the Charlotte Mason world, but I've been thinking about what "digital keeping" might look like.
  • Spoke some Spanish and French. In Spanish, Gemma worked on numbers. In French, Gemma worked on greetings, goodbyes, and introductions, and watched Bonjour, Les Amis.
  • Read a chapter in Elementary Geography, and "The Monkey Bridge" in The World by the Fireside
  • I almost forgot math! 😜 Gemma completed a chapter in Life of Fred: Mineshaft, and several pages from an out-of-print book of multiplication riddles. These riddles make me nostalgic. They're B.C.C. (Before Common Core).
  • Did some sleuthing

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Who Wants to be an Opera Singer?

Today, I surprised Gemma with tickets to Who Wants to be an Opera Singer?, part of the LA Opera's Saturday Mornings at the Opera.

The performance was at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in downtown Los Angeles. Doors opened at 10 a.m. For an hour before the show, there were all sorts of activities, including "Dance Like a Gypsy," opera character finger puppets, and Make Your Own Opera Glasses. There were also vocal warm-ups, a postcard station, and a Make Your Own Opera Helmet.

Here is Gemma learning to dance like a gypsy...

The dancers also taught us how to waltz. (The adults in charge of the all of the activities were really excellent. They knew what they were doing, they knew how to work with children, and they genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves.)

Gemma made a "Carmen" finger puppet...

She also made these...

Upstairs, the children sat on cushions on the floor, while the parents got to sit in chairs. Win-win for everyone.

The show was structured like a game show, with a host (baritone), an announcer, a plucky maestro, and three contestants: an overly confident tenor with a Brooklyn accent, a mezzo-soprano with stage fright, and a bubbly soprano.

The show included songs from The Barber of Seville, Madama Butterfly, Carmen, and La Traviata, and Die Fledermaus. The singing was, of course, excellent. I was also impressed by how funny all of the performers were.

It was such an enjoyable experience that when one woman said they still had tickets available for a performance in May, I went straight to the box office and bought tickets for Verdi's Opera Tales. 

After that, maybe we'll try a full-length opera. Humperdinck's Hansel & Gretel is part of the LA Opera's upcoming season. 😊

Friday, February 2, 2018

My Child Has Quite An Imagination...

These are The Princesses of Peara-Den. The dragon is their ride. He has lollipops growing on his back, and he breathes blue cotton candy.

Year 1: Week 26

This week, we...

  • finished "As You Like It" in Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare. What tale should we read next?😊
  • read poems from Nature in Verse
  • completed Chapter 2 of Life of Fred: Mineshaft
  • read "Jack the Giant Killer" from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book. Her narration of this story was hilarious. In it, she cast me as the king and all the giants. She was, of course, Jack.
  • practiced piano (with a focus on calypso song "Mary Ann" and hymn "Soul Adorn Thyself With Gladness")
  • read a fable, practiced cursive, sang songs...
  • finished Chapter 1 of Seed Babies 
  • read about seahorse fathers in The Burgess Seashore Book
  • read the first 5 books in the Ramona series! (Not "we." She. Ramona is Gemma's new favorite book series.)
  • listened to Mozart
  • read about Brazil in The World by the Fireside
  • drew a carriage, using 1-2-3 Draw Princesses
  • re-viewed La Grenouillere by Monet
  • learned to say goodbye in various ways in Spanish and French
  • finished our bedtime free read - The Magician's Nephew. It's so good, but please don't read it first!
  • went on an after-dinner walk to the beach to watch the International Space Station move across the night sky. It was only visible for about two minutes, but it was a pretty neat-o two minutes.
  • built go-carts with friends, using grid beam - Handicrafts✔️

Sunday, January 28, 2018

How Do I Bless My Child?

For Gemma's first birthday, my aunt and uncle gave me the book The Spiritual Growth of Children.

Gemma was a year old, so I, of course, read the section for Ages 0-4 first. Chapter 29 ("From Hugs to Hosannas: What Your 0-4-Year-Old Can Learn") is about the ideas a young child can learn about God. He exists. He loves you. He created everything...

One of the ideas is "God created you," and the book gives "Hints and Helps" as to how to communicate this to a 0 to 4 year old:
When you pray for and over your children, thank God for making them so special and for giving them to you and your family. Be as specific as you can. For example, at the end of the day in which your toddler built an especially tall tower of blocks, thank God for giving him or her a steady hand and a creative mind.
Every night since I read that paragraph, I have included in our bedtime prayer a thank you to God for making Gemma. I want her to hear me express my gratitude that she is in my life.

Gemma is now six, and there are lots of moments when my very smart, very confident child needs a reminder that Mommy and Daddy really do want her to do what we say, preferably soon after we say it.

I should also add that I want my child to express herself. I value her curiosity and her need to make sense of things.

Just not everything.  All. the. time.

So, when I've told her to do something, and she's questioned why, and this has happened three or four times in a row, I'm not thinking about blessing my child.

I'm trying not to yell.

I teach public school, and doing so requires a lot of self-control. By the time I get home from work, I often feel I've used up my store of self-control for the day. It's pretty crummy feeling that other people's children get a better version of me than my own child.

So, we're back to the question of How do I bless my child?

According to John Trent and Gary Smalley, there are 5 elements to a blessing:

  1. meaningful and appropriate touch
  2. a spoken or written message
  3. attaching a high value to the one being blessed
  4. picturing a special future for her
  5. an active commitment to fulfill the blessing

Instead of trying to do all of these in order, like a blessing recipe, I want to try to bless my child more frequently. When she asks for one more hug, even when I should have been out the door two minutes ago and my car is on empty, I need to hug her. And I need to like it.

A spoken or written message... For the past couple of years, every day before I leave for work, I've written Gemma a short note in which I include the words "I love you." There have been a couple of times I didn't write her a note, and she's asked why. I was in a hurry; I hadn't realized that it meant so much.

We say "I love you" multiple times each day, but there are other things I want Gemma to hear.

You are accepted. You are my priceless treasure. You will always have enough. Yes, I will help you, not later, but now.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

James Herriot as Science

About a year ago, when I was planning Gemma's Year 1 (first grade), one of the sources I used for inspiration was Ambleside Online (AO). (I love AO, and I refer to it often.) One of the books AO, and other Charlotte Mason curricula, recommended for Natural History was James Herriot's Treasury for Children.


At that time, I didn't know much about the difference between Science and Natural History. I was quite ignorant. I thought that Natural History was just a Victorian/Edwardian term for Science. My daughter would be studying Natural History. How quaint.

I ordered the Herriot book and read it. The stories in it were very sweet. Quaint. But not science. I might be able to read this book to my daughter as a series of bedtime stories, but how could I call it school?

Over the past year, I've come across other homeschoolers with the same question. They wonder what science curriculum they should use with their kinder through third grade students. The whole learning-through-stories is nice and all, but where are the facts?

Over the past year, I've also read a little bit about the difference between Science and Natural History, and about the importance of giving a child time to develop 1)their skill of observation, and 2)some general understandings about the physical and natural world.

So, what do I think now?

I think James Herriot's book is an essential Year 1 book. It is a Natural History book in that Herriot models how to observe nature. He displays a sense of humility when he writes about the ways animals surprise him. He watches animals closely, wondering what they will do next, demonstrating curiosity.

There is also has quite a bit of science in the book. By hearing Herriot's stories, children implicitly learn:

  • Living things move.
  • Living things take in and use food.
  • Living things sense changes in their surroundings. (Example: An animal can sense a change in temperature.)
  • Living things grow.
  • Living things die.
  • Living things reproduce. (Example: Mommy pigs have piglets.)
  • Animals can feel comfort and pain.
  • Animals can remember.
  • Animals can communicate.
These are just some of the science lessons children learn from James Herriot's Treasury for Children. In a science textbook, these facts would be stated explicitly. However, by using a living science book, children "observe" along with the storyteller, and discover ideas for themselves.

I'd love you to leave me a comment sharing What science lessons did your child learn from James Herriot's stories?